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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

The Godfather bar in Sicily and Al Pacino's very chair

Carlos at the Godfather bar, August 2010

A few weeks after Mexico I went to play in Taormina, Sicily. This beautiful medieval town is built on the top of a steep hill overlooking the Mediterranean. It is spectacular. During the 1950's it was the haunt of great Italian cinema idols such as Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni and has retained much of its’ glamour. I played a varied programme of Spanish and Baroque music in a small church in the centre of town as part of the Festival. At the last moment I decided to play some of my arrangements of the music of Queen and the Beatles. When I say the last moment I mean as my hands hovered over the strings about to start the next unannounced piece. Old and new music side by side – just like Sicily itself, old and new side by side.

The next day inspired by the atmosphere I made an arrangement of a Sicilian tarantella and dedicated it to my friend the guitarist Daniele Foti, the Artistic Director of the Festival. After spending some considerable time over this we decided to go for a drink and he suggested the bar Vitelli.

I said “where's that?”
“ In Sàvoca up in the hills.”
“How far is it?”
“Just 5 miles away. You know what it is, don’t you?”
“It's where they filmed the Godfather film”.
“What!” I said jumping up and down. “I have been coming here 3 years in a row and you have never taken me there!”

So into the car we hastened and drove through some beautiful hills with glimpses of the sea in between. The sun was beginning to set.

“Hurry up, we can´t miss this in case they close”.
“They don´t close, there are bus loads of tourists going up there.”

When we arrived I couldn´t believe my eyes. I walked directly into the film set. There next to the doorway had sat Al Pacino at exactly the same table with the same flowers and plants around, the same doorway, the same garden entrance. I half expected the same bar owner to stride out. It was from him that Al Pacino had asked for the hand of his lovely daughter. I waited until clients had left the table and sat myself down in the same chair. Well maybe not the same chair, but certainly the same spot. This was a journey back in time. Not only has the bar remained unaltered but much of the village too has not changed one jot for hundreds of years.

Flavio, Claudio and Carlos, November 2010

In November I returned again to play in Sicily, this time in Messina, a large cosmopolitan city very much of our times, its’ elegant architectural heritage side by side with the modern. This time I played in a large purpose-built modern concert hall. We used state-of-the-art amplification. It was a trio concert with guitarists Claudio Piastra and Flavio Cucchi, two great friends and very fine players. We played a programme which included two works by Vivaldi, who else?

After the concert we went to a restaurant called Il Giulietti in the heart of Messina but described as “being out of this world” by the proprietor. On arrival he asked to see my guitar and played a few passable arpeggios on it. Then he sat at the grand piano and sang to his own accompaniment very beautifully in a melancholic Italian tenor. Afterwards he produced a great meal combining the old and new cuisines. He said “ a restaurant does not simply sell food or hire out tables and chairs. What it should do is appeal to your emotions”. Very Italian and very Sicilian.

And so in the space of a few months I had seen Sicily, from ancient Taormina to modern Messina. A lot has been written and spoken about Sicily, but to see the contrasts, to enjoy the hills and sea, and to experience the hospitality of local people is something special.

August and November 2010

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=144 .
© 2019.

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